I was born a Kansas City Chiefs fan. I was five when they won Super Bowl IV on January 11, 1970. They were good for a year or two after that but began a slow decline into a miserable existence by the mid-1970s forcing many of us young football fans to alternate fandoms. Me? Like many, I turned to the Pittsburg Steelers under Coach Chuck Noll.
The Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty of that era held tremendous appeal to a 10-year-old, football-loving, lower-middle-class kid from Kansas City, Kansas. They played aggressive and physical defense that earned the nickname, The Steel Curtain. They had an effective offense built on the legs of their running back Franco Harris and the arm of Terry Bradshaw. Most important to me, however, was the fact they beat the hated Oakland Raiders in several high-profile games, including the Immaculate Reception game (a life-changing event for this kid!).
Franco Harris passed away today at age 72. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Franco and the Steelers recently due to the NFL’s plan to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception game. It’s a sad day for this 58-year-old “kid”. Not only has another childhood sports hero died, but one who also appeared to have been as great of a human as he was a football player. I never met or saw Franco in person, yet I feel we lost a favorite uncle.
That’s a great compliment to Franco and his Steeler teammates. They were Everyman’s Team. They were tough-as-nails and blue-collar. The team, like Franco Harris, wasn’t loud or outrageous as a general rule. They did their job and won football games with class and honor.
Rest in peace, #32!